Written by Nadine Cheung
Halloween will be here before you know it, so now is the time to plan a great gathering—just for adults. But this year, do something different. Truly celebrate the time when the holiday became a national institution by throwing a 1920s theme party.
According to History.com, Halloween is believed to have originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, a time when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. "In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated Nov. 1 as a time to honor all saints and martyrs; the holiday, All Saints' Day, incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain," the site says. "The evening before was known as All Hallows' Eve and later Halloween." By the 1920s, Halloween had become a secular holiday celebrated by the entire community.
Isn't that something to celebrate? To prep for the event, start by heading to a thrift store or vintage shop and search for old postcards, which you can use as invitations or decorations for the party. You should also be able to find inexpensive vintage glassware and trays, which you can use to serve small edibles or display candles.
Naturally, you'll want to ask your guests to wear costumes from the era, which, with "Boardwalk Empire" and "The Great Gatsby" making headlines, shouldn't be too hard to find. The men can channel their inner Nucky Thompson, while your female guests can be inspired by Daisy Buchanan's fancy attire.
The Roaring Twenties is a period that lends itself to an air of sophistication, which you can echo in an upscale menu. Think rich stews, mini meatballs, fruit cups and dainty individual Bundt cakes when planning out what you'd like to serve. Of course, it's still a party, so feel free to get creative by using small and large pumpkins as decorations or serving vessels. Just make sure they lean more toward autumnal than jack-o-lantern.
To get you started, try this Hearty Autumn Beef Stew, which can be made in one pot ahead of time. There will be plenty to go around, and the dish fits perfectly within the holiday party theme.
Hearty Autumn Beef Stew
2 1/2 pounds chuck beef, good quality, cut into 1 1/4-inch cubes
1 (750ml bottle) good red wine
3 garlic cloves, whole, smashed
3 bay leaves
8 ounces bacon, cut in 1-inch pieces
Freshly ground pepper
Good olive oil
2 cups yellow onion, chopped
3 tablespoons garlic, minced
1 pound carrots, peeled, cut diagonally in 1 1/2-inch chunks
1 pound small potatoes, halved and quartered
1 can beef stock (14 1/2 ounce can)
1 large branch fresh rosemary (or 2 small branches)
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 10-ounce package frozen peas
Place the beef in a bowl with the red wine, whole garlic, and bay leaves. Marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
Preheat the oven to 300ºF. Brown the bacon over medium-low heat. Transfer the bacon to a Dutch oven. Combine 2 cups flour, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 tablespoon pepper. Lift the beef out of the marinade and discard the bay leaves and garlic, saving the marinade. In batches, dredge the cubes of beef in the flour mixture and shake off excess. In the sauté pan, brown half the beef over medium heat, turning to brown evenly. Place the beef in the Dutch oven with the bacon and continue to brown the remaining beef, placing it all in the Dutch oven.
Lower the heat to medium-low, add onions to the sauté pan and cook. Add the minced garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the carrots and potatoes cooking for an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Place all the vegetables in the Dutch oven with the beef. Add 2 1/2 cups of the reserved marinade (discard the rest) to the sauté pan and cook over high heat to deglaze the bottom of the pan, scraping up all the brown bits with a wooden spoon. Add the beef stock, rosemary, Worcestershire sauce, 1 tablespoon salt, and 2 teaspoons pepper. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables in the Dutch oven and bring it to a simmer over medium heat on top of the stove. Cover the pot and place it in the oven for 2 hours, until the meat and vegetables are tender. If the stew is boiling rather than simmering, lower the heat to 250ºF to 275ºF.
When the stew is done and the meat is tender, whisk 2 tablespoons of flour and 1 cup of the sauce together and pour it back into the stew. Simmer for 3 minutes, until thickened. Stir in frozen peas, season to taste and serve hot.
This article is part of Mix It Up, an editorial series created in collaboration with AOL's Kitchen Daily and Huffington Post. It is dedicated to making the lives of mothers easier through articles, videos and slideshows focused on simple and creative solutions to everyday challenges. From healthy recipes to exciting ideas for a more balanced lifestyle, this section aims to become a resource for moms everywhere.